5 Ways Parents Can Ensure the Successful Launch of their College Student
By Julie Tuozzoli ’85, P’15,’16,’19, Manager, Manager Employer Relations and Alumni Career Development
As a career professional in higher education and, perhaps more importantly, as the mother of three college students—one of whom is a recent college graduate—I have some advice geared towards fellow parents.
I wish I could say that my professional knowledge of the recruitment process saved me from the stress and concerns as a parent of a college senior. It did not. I rode the emotional roller coaster through my son’s applications, resumes, career fairs, interviews, job offers, and rejections. Did he need me every step of the way for him to secure his first job out of college? As I found out in the end, probably not. It turns out that a motivated and prepared senior has the tools to successfully complete a job search him or herself. Prepared being the operative word. With two additional children ready to follow in his footsteps, I still reserve the right to worry.
Here are a few suggestions about preparing for a job after graduation. But by offering these steps, it is my hope that we can limit our parental worries to the all-important interview suit!
1) Start early
Discuss with your son or daughter the importance of being proactive from Day One. Talk about the Career Center and all of the good things it has to offer. Ask them about their interests and talk about uncovering clubs and organizations where they can develop leadership skills over time. Have meaningful conversations about different career options and different jobs. They can learn a lot about networking just by speaking with family, friends and neighbors about their jobs.
2) Define expectations
It’s easy to say, “It’s his/her life, it’s up to him/her to make these decisions.” That is true. However, you can help them get the most out of their four years of college by setting expectations. Employers have requirements and expectations—so can you. You can set forth the expectation that they will go to the Career Fairs even if they proclaim “there is nothing there for me.” You can expect them to work over the summers to gain valuable experiences. You can expect that they’ll keep their social media cleaned-up and private. And you can expect that they’ll work towards finding that career that interests them and be ready to pursue it after graduation. Your expectations DO make a difference.
3) Encourage throughout
Support their decisions. If they decide to join the archery club instead of the finance club, encourage them to do more than show up. Employers, generally speaking, are less concerned about the club itself. Instead, they are more interested in how students utilized the club to gain leadership opportunities and hone their skills. The same goes for internships. Encourage them to do as many as they can and as early as they can. It doesn’t matter what the company name is, it’s being exposed to a wide array of experiences and responsibilities that matter. Listen to and encourage them when they talk about their likes and dislikes. You are helping them express themselves in a professional way.
4) Trust, but stay on track
So you’ve done all of the above and it is now time to apply for that internship or job. You need to trust that you have done your part to prepare them for the job search and that they’ve done theirs, and then back away. Let the professionals at the Career Center take over. Let them read over the many cover letters and resumes. Let these knowledgeable people give the advice on how to answer an interview question and how to prepare an elevator speech. Check in with your son or daughter often, but try to remove the judgment and the stress from your voice and face. It’s hard to believe that they can make it through the process without you—but they can.
5) Be there for the rejections as well as the offer
Resumes and cover letters go out and screening interviews take place. If they are lucky, the screenings turn into in-person interviews. Then there is the waiting, the frustration, maybe a rejection, and hopefully the ultimate joy over an offer. Be sure to check in with your child to see how he/she is weathering the stress. They are juggling school, senior year celebrations and the job search. All are important aspects of their launch. You can’t physically be there for every missed interview question or bad day, but encouraging words and a good “hang in there, it’s all going to work out” attitude goes a long way.
Following my own advice, it did work out. One successfully launched child; two to go!